Five Questions with Camille Thomas

Camille Thomas is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Florida State University. She recently took part in our “Five Questions” series to tell us about her role.

1. Describe your current scholcomm position?

I see outreach and strategic leadership as the main function of my role as Scholarly Communication Librarian at FSU. I work with faculty, students, subject and functional librarians and campus units (e.g. The Graduate School, Honors College, Office of Distance Learning, Office of Research, Office of the Provost) on academic publishing, copyright, open access and open education initiatives. I work with the digital scholarship and media librarians in my department on projects that apply to how technology has created innovative applications for research and teaching. I speak to classes, create resources, conduct consultations, review contracts, give workshops and advise on other related initiatives in the library (e.g. transformative agreements, data services, course reserves, ebooks for the classroom). I also manage funds for open initiatives, support FSU’s open access policy and supervise our Repository Specialist. In my 5+ years doing scholcomm work, I’ve never been bored and grown a lot as a professional and a person.

2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?

I knew pretty early on in my first semester of library school that I wanted to do scholcomm work, which is pretty uncommon, until more recently as Intro to Scholarly Communication courses emerged. There were no such courses when I was in school even a few years ago. Like most people, I had no idea I even wanted to be a librarian for most of my life. I had a lot of different interests in research, technology, social justice, independent publishing and access to information by the time I was at the end of undergrad. I also knew I wanted to work in academic libraries, but didn’t feel a lot of the traditional roles spoke to me. In my first semester, I asked to meet with a seemingly successful alumni of FSU’s iSchool, Micah Vandegrift, who happened to be the founding Scholarly Communications Librarian and then Director of Digital Research and Scholarship at FSU. He described his work and it all clicked for me — all of my interests converged. I just knew it was for me. I planned my coursework and work experience to prepare me for the role. I haven’t looked back since.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping people navigate their agency regarding copyright and new ways of publishing. It is very rewarding when people are making considerations for copyright or academic publishing — they have all the elements of open access, for example, swirling in their minds, but I can help them put specific terms to the ideas and offer them support and services, even if that is just answering a question or reassuring them. It is so rewarding to help people see their own agency as creators in academia.

4. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?

I would use a magic wand to change the inequities in scholarly publishing and what is recognized in promotion and tenure. I might be cheating because that is two things, but I think they go hand in hand. There are so many ways that the scholarly communication ecosystem perpetuates only what fits as “objective”, quantitative, mid-late career, white, male, Western, and Anglophone canon of what research looks like. I think open access and digital scholarship already support new formats and practices of scholarship. If new modes of scholarship were more accepted in promotion and tenure, I think there would be an opportunity to stop replicating inequitable and financially unsustainable publishing practices in order to demonstrate value. We could look at research in a more nuanced way, support impactful public scholarship and support marginalized scholars. We could expand to a scholcomm ecosystem based on strength and trust within our scholarly communities, rather than prestige alone.

5. If you were not a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?

My secondary interest is User Experience Librarianship, so I would probably be specialized in that area. I did an internship at the University of Arizona in their User Experience department, currently serve on FSU Libraries’ Usability and Accessibility Group, and am a Scholarly Submissions Editor for Weave: Journal of User Experience in Libraries. Besides that, I would probably be a writer (journalism and creative writing). As I near a transition from early to mid-career, I am discerning how to best shift my time from a high volume of “extracurricular” service and research projects to a few high impact ones. I hope to have more capacity to write.